Came to Visit (Page 3)
The Live Setup
VSM: How did you guys approach this whole live thing. It must have been rough figuring out exactly what you were going to take and what you had to leave behind.
BK: Yeah, originally it was intended not to be played live. We just thought it was going to be a studio project and leave it at that. But then too many good offers came up that we [decided we] should try something. We realized that, as opposed to hiring 6 other musicians to go out with us so that we could play all of these other parts which we multi-tracked and put together, we're going to have to do it with two guys. And that leaves us two hands apiece.
We also had to choose a selection of keyboards that would give us a variety of sounds and also be reliable and also not be too big and also be, you know, cool-looking, too. We didn't want to have the really dumb stuff. Things like a Chroma could be taken out, I suppose. It'd be likely to break. It doesn't look so hip. It doesn't look so much fun. I really always wanted to have a Minimoog sitting up on top here. Because it's the most visible and fun to tweek around, and I do a lot of knob twisting as we play.
VSM: How much have you played out?
BK: A dozen or 20 shows, maybe. We did some Japan shows, we did some in LA and San Francisco, and played MTV here and in Europe.
VSM: Have you had any major problems with the Minimoog?
BK: No, except for the Minimoog occasionally transposing up and down a third as I was playing it. But JL at Music Tech fixed that problem and it's stable as any modern digital keyboard now. It just will not go out of tune. Which is great.
We've changed our set up from... I think [for] quite a few of the shows we've just changed the set up completely. If we are playing in Los Angelos I can take out a Polymoog and a Sonic Six, we've done that before. There's times when we've just played mono synths. When we did MTV we had a Prophet V, two Minimoogs, and an Oberheim 2-Voice. It all depends on what our set up is.. do we need a lot of variety? Like for the full live touring show we do now, we need stuff with presets mostly. So Roger has two Sources on the road and a JX-3P.Just real basic sounds, you know the real bright clear sounds that we need to use. And I have the Minimoog with the Sequential Programmer, which is the only way I can deal with Minimoogs is to have it programmable. And then I have the new CS1x.
VSM: Now with the CS1x do you feel like you are betraying some type vintage "code of honor"?
BK: Well yes and no. We actually like all keyboards whether they are acoustic or mechanical or electro-mechanical or analog or digital. We have all of it, you know. And we really like a lot of digital stuff too. I think it definitely doesn't sound as good as the real thing. But I can split the keyboard and put effects on one half of the keyboard and things like that, too. And I need something that is touch-sensitive to get across some of the feel we have in the music. So to find it in a real analog synth that is not going to break down is hard. And there's very few analog synths that can do that anyway. [The CS1x is] not bad, it's bright blue, so it's kind of visual and spacey looking. It weighs about one half pound and it's replaceable if something happens to it, which is crucial.
Obviously we'd like to have a whole bank of keyboards around us. We'd like to put on the Asia 5 tour ourselves and be surrounded by a Wakeman pile, or a Jeff Downs pile or something.
It'd be great. Even to have three keyboards apiece would be nice. It'd give us more options. But we can barely carry the stuff we have. We don't have a road crew. So it's hard enough to set up the stuff we have.
On our [most recent shows] it was actually fun to end up taking out the Sequential  programmer and the Steiner Master-Touch. Those are two of the coolest boxes that people just didn't use.
VSM: Now your Minimoog is connected to your Sequential System 700? How does that work?
BK: The 700 programmer, which is pretty happening, the way it works is it has two envelopes built in. One envelope goes to the amp and one envelope goes to the filter. So basically it replaces the envelopes that are in the Minimoog, that's very simple. And it has a CV output for pitch so I can have an octave up, two octaves down, whatever pitch I want. It has three outputs for pitch if you want. So, I can program each oscillator if I wanted to, I could do chords on the thing. And that's great for a 2600, when you want to do it that way. You can store octaves and transpositions on a 2600 and then filter it and amplitude control.
VSM: So are you triggering the Sequential from the Minimoog?
BK: The trigger from the Minimoog goes into the Sequential and tells it to start the envelopes.
VSM: And the Sequential, in turn, is controlling the Minimoog?
BK: Yeah, And then the pitch will go to whatever pitch you tell it to go to. And then the filters and envelope run the the amp and filters. Pretty simple idea. It doesn't change your oscillators on and off, it doesn't change your waveforms, it doesn't change your routing, but that's enough of set up to do live. I can go from "Popcorn" to a fat and buzzy bass sound, to a short flutey lead tone at the press of a button.
VSM:: You know I was watching you the other night. And I couldn't figure out how you were programming the Minimoog so fast on the fly like that.
BK: As soon as I got that box, I couldn't believe it. Finally I can do what people should have been doing all of these years... you know, Emerson had a little programming system, and it was not too hard to do that but it's real nice to have it all preset and programmable. And if people had it, they could really play the real thing live alot more. And I've had no problems with it so far, so..
VSM: And Roger has a Source?
BK: Roger has two Sources. He used to have three, but two is all he needs now. One and a backup, kind of thing. They are great simple keyboards for the live stuff, especially because they are programmable. And you have the Moog filter which is important to the sound. We really want that sound.
VSM: I didn't think that they were that reliable.
BK: They're not. That's why we have a spare on the road. And he's had quite a few breakdowns here and there. The touch panel in front is the scariest part. It's also the coolest looking part of the keyboard, it's got the blue and orange space age design to it. And it looks good, it's silver, and it's got the big Moog name on the back and it looks good for us on stage.
We were very aware of how things look alot of times, too. We would really like to have a 2600 around if we could with a programmer hooked up to it, Just to do sound effects-type things. It's be great to watch us work the sliders on it, it's facinating to see, but we just can't handle it, we know it'd break on the road.
VSM: Roger also plays a JX-3P?
BK: The JX-3P which I think will never break, they're pretty reliable. That or a Juno kind of thing. Roger really likes those sounds that are really pure and bright and clear, sine wavy, kind of clear things. Those work really good for that. And then of course, delays, and distortion pedals and things like that help us out, too, to get a sound a little more like the record. It really makes alot of sense to have more little things like that, that you can do alot with. Roger playing with the delay unit and stuff, gets a good spacy tone off a sine wave that people recognize. When it's just the dry thing, sometimes it's a little boring. That's one of the things we love to do is process things. We run synths through other synths all the time, we run them through pedals all the time and it really adds alot to the sound, I think. At least it takes you out of the realm of sounds that we've always heard before. I keep telling people, I can't wait to get the Con Brio [ADS 200] up and running so I can put it through my Marshall. And see what it sounds like.
VSM: Talk about that Steiner Parker unit. Tell me all about it.
BK: The Steiner's Masters Touch is what they call it. It was made for the Crumar company. I think it came with one of their synths and I can't remember which one, the Stratus or something, it was right around that period. And it was an optional accessory. It had two tubes that came with it. Basically they have a breath controller to blow into. And it puts out a CV range from 0 to 10 volts kind of thing. And you can control any thing with that. So when you are blowing you can open up and close the filter on the Minimoog for example. Great controller. They have a sealed tube, which is actually called a bite control, although you can use it for anything. That one you can squeeze because it's sealed at one end. And then you can change the CV out 0 to 10 volts and control anything you want. On mine I pulled all of the stuff off it and put really long surgical tubes in it so I could step on it and stuff on stage. It makes a good visual. But you can actually have someone twenty feet across the room, sitting at the mixer, blowing into it, controlling the brightness while somebody's across the room playing the keyboard.
VSM: So it works on air pressure.
BK: And if you tied a knot in the hose, it would be a basic bite controller where you could step on it. It's one of the best controllers to put under your foot. You can, with subtle foot pressure, make a thing open and close, you can do volume control, for example.
VSM: It would be very intuitive that way.
BK: It's real simple. It's not like a pedal where you have to move the whole leg and stuff, you just kind of lean a little bit on it. Or you can sit on it or put it under your armpit or something, it doesn't matter. And alot of people like that because, even when they are not keyboard players, they feel that they can have some fun controlling it.
[Note: A favorite Moog Cookbook thing to do live is to throw the long surgical tube off the stage at the crowd and let people pull and stretch it, controlling the Minimoog.]
The other parts of the control are... it has a little touch plate, kind of like an ARP PPC, on the later Odysseys. The plate is a piezo type unit. It outputs a temporary change, in other words when you squeeze it, it notices the a change, but when you stop there's no more change, even if you are pushing down hard. It notices the travel.
VSM: The travel?
BK: While it's changing it changes, but while it stops nothing comes out. So you can use that for, let's say, virbrato for a keyboard. Or I put it into the oscillator sometimes and I just tap on it and I gets a little squirrely sound. It sounds a little bit organic. But it's not really going to do pitch bend, cause once you've pushed hard, it will stop and there won't be any change. But it measures the change. It's a weird one.
And the neatest part [of Steiner's Masters Touch] is it has an audio in and out with its own low pass filter. So you can have a guitar player for instance, blowing on the tube, and doing a breath control filter on the guitar. Or, which I like to do, playing a DX7 through the thing, for an analog filter. It warms it up like crazy, it sounds great. And you get this really cool, funky, almost like a Mutron kind of idea where the filter is opening and closing on cue.
But, we're still not done.... He built the thing in with the resonance and a filter itself so that when you blow harder, not only does the filter open up, but the amplitude gets a little bigger and the resonance increases a bit. Now if you look at what a trumpet does, if you start blowing harder, it gets brighter, louder and it gets more focused because it starts resonating hard at that one frequency. So it's really good for just playing a Minimoog through [it], for example. It makes the thing sound more like a real instrument, expressively, because as you are blowing harder, its shreiking a little bit more and when you are blowing softer, it's getting darker, and more muted, and more mellow, and it's an amazing controller, and running anything through it makes it sound more full.
VSM: Is the Steiner-Parker Lyricon built upon that same concept.
BK: It's similar, but a controller in general - not necessarily the resonant
filter part. I don't know anything that has built upon [the Master Touch], cause it's such a good combination of packages. I would buy it for just the breath controller/ CV alone, and it has a good four or five other things on it.
VSM: So how many things can happen at once. Can you only have one controller at a time?
BK: Everything has a separate output. There's the breath controller, the bite controller, and the touch controller, each one of those things has a separate output. It has switch trigger and V-trigger outs.
VSM: And the three sliders?
BK: They have an amount control for the breath controller one. And then they have resonance and filter.
VSM: So what's up next? Are you guys going to do some more touring?
BK: Yeah, we're going to see how things go. We kind of take what's offered on the plate and go with it. They say, "Do you guys want to go to New York?" or Washington or something, and we say yes or no, depending on our schedules and moods.